Dusty Baker is blamed for the downfall of both Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.
But what about former Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild?
Baker, of course, controlled the reins on how many pitches each threw and when they came out of the game. But does Larry get a free pass for not fixing the mechanical issues of Prior and Wood?
Then again, maybe Baker nor Rothschild is to blame. Perhaps, Jim Hendry’s inability to land more relief pitching during the 2003 season was the cause.
If during that season Baker had better bullpen options than Antonio Alfonseca (5.83 ERA), Juan Cruz (6.05 ERA) and Dave Veres (4.68 ERA), maybe he pulls Prior and Wood sooner than 120 pitches (I’m convinced he would have done so). Maybe that saves their careers, maybe not.
But despite the well publicized fall from grace of Prior and Wood, Rothschild is still considered one of the better pitching coaches in the game–and he should be. His nine-year run with Chicago produced sparkling numbers.
The Cubs’ team ERA has ranked in the top-five of the N.L. in each of the last three seasons. They led the majors in strikeouts in each of his first seven seasons, including striking out a Major League record 1,404 batters in 2003.
Rothschild’s 2007 staff recorded a 4.04 ERA, second in the N.L., and allowed just 1,329 hits–the lowest mark in baseball–the following campaign.
Those numbers give us reason to believe Rothschild isn’t to blame for Prior’s and Wood’s inexplicable decline, or his frustrating battles with Carlos Zambrano.
Rothschild fan or not, replacing his effectiveness won’t come easily. Just look how long it took Rudy Jaramillo to settle into his position as hitting coach.